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Source pages ...The last days of Leone Sextus Tollemache

Leone Sextus Tollemache fell victim to influenza in the winter of 1917 - perhaps one of the earliest casualties of what is now known to have been the fatal strain that reached epidemic proportions when it became a global phenomenon in 1918.

Susan F. Tollemache, his granddaughter, writes:

"There is a story in the family that the gardener saw Leone's ghost - the day before the family were notified of his demise - walking along the footpath at the back of Ham House and then through a locked gate. The gardener knew the gate was locked as he had locked it himself.

The extract below is from the diary written during the last three months of his life. It makes very sad reading. I understand from his Regiment that he should not have been writing a diary at all - against Army regulations in time of war - which may explain why some things are rather as if he was writing in code.

There were other diaries too - but they were lost at the time of my father's death. This particular diary was found in an antique book shop. Luckily, the shop owner sent it to my brother (without charge) when he was told by an aquaintance of my father's (who found it among a pile of old diaries) who the owner was. Original image courtesy of Susan F. Tollemache

I saw one of the other diaries before and remember reading a page where he described the weather, listed the number of casualties who had passed through his Clearing Station that day and the extent of their wounds. He listed items he had requested from supplies: Morphine tablets, Lavender oil (which was used as an antiseptic at the time) and gauze bandages. He noted his concern for the army horses and the conditions they were kept in.  However, as far as I know, Leone was not a medic. I was told he had been posted to a "Clearing Station". Perhaps the war had reached the stage where "they" just posted "numbers" to these posts ... "Brigade Major needed - send Tollemache - dosen't matter if he's not a medic - he has First Aid and that's enough"! This was not unusual then. Equally, it may be that my grandfather was involved in the ordering and supply of general stores and equipment for various purposes, not just medical. He is also mentioned as being involved in the training of troops.

Leone embarked on HMS Braemar Castle in September 1914 for the Great War. In contrast to some accounts of this period of the war - where events and surroundings are more closely described - the overall feeling that comes across in my grandfather's diary is one of a personal melancholy; but we have to remember that, apart from battle fatigue and suppressed ire at the 'bone headed officers' above him - sending orders down the line to commit men to certain death (while they sat well out of harm's way) - Leone was in mourning for his wife to whom he had been married for only nine short months before she died - in childbirth - in January 1915, when my father was born. I know he got leave when she died; but I am not sure if he managed to see my father at all between then and the leave he mentions in his last diary. His brother, Leo, was killed in 1914 and his body was never found. These two episodes would have been enough to depress the strongest of men without anything else added - and a lack of proper sleep would not have helped. Like many more of his generation, his was a life snuffed out before its time.

When he died, he was a Captain - serving as a Brigade Major in the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade, to which he had been seconded from the Leicestershire Regiment. He had great admiration for the ANZAC forces. I was told this by my cousin, Theo, Leone's niece - daughter of his sister, Lyonesse.

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Transcript of the Diary of Leone Sextus Tollemache - the last six weeks
1st January - 14th February 1917

Useful background information ...

1st. January.
Feeling pretty dicky. Don't go out or do anything. G. O. C. 1st. Anzac comes round. Things pretty grim & miserable. Ask about returning to B. E. F. (British Expeditionary Force)
2nd. January.
Feeling absolutely useless. Think I'll have to chuck in.
3rd. January.
Feeling very dicky. Don't go out in morning. Am quite feed up with life. Hear of all the DSOs etc.-- really quite comique.
Still very dicky. Go up to 11th. OP HQ. Still very fed up. Henwood comes up. Clarke goes on leave.
5th. January.
Like a fool go up to frontline. Nearly throw a fit. Am congratulated (not condoled with) because of a mention. (in dispatches)
6th. January.
Feeling very seedy again. Can't think or do anything. Feel ready to chuck in.
7th. January.
Still very sick monkey. Salisbury, Salier, Ridley, & Gen. Glasgow come along. Feel a little more cheerful. My Brigade going on leave after a lapse of 30 days. Don't go out or do anything.
8th. January.
A miserable day - feeling very seedy. Go to visit Salier 12th. Bd & Gen. Robertson. Handing over to 13th. seems all right after 34 of the most miserable & useless days up in Line. Leave about 20.15 & arrive at end of duck walk at 21.15 & Derancourt 22.15.
9th. January.
Feeling awful. Get up late; have to move my room. Find that my horses have been absolutely neglected. Feel very miserable. Got back with Baker ?Major [writing is difficult to read here] at 9th. Br Hdqts - Col Bennett & Andrew pushes off  on leave. Gen. Walker comes along & hears our & my woes!
10th. January.
Still very sad monkey -- see Col. Marshal in the morning. Do not do anything, still contemplate going sick. Get letter from Gen. Mac Logan & dispatches; write a suitable answer. Send cheque £1. to Le Fause for Wardle's present. Feeling very seedy. [here writing is very hard to make out] Gen Walker says my queries re. ... to Su & G S O will be looked into but don't believe it!
11th. January
Nothing special doing. Still feeling very dicky. G.O .C. 1st. Div comes around again. They appear to be interested in my woes - don't think it's much good at all. I'm quite apathetic. Smith the new Bde Comdr is very finicky. Chapman comes as J.O. Go around to 10th. after dinner.
12th. January.
Nothing special. Go & see untrained re-enforcements. The whole show is a bit of a farce. Am still feeling anything but fit but chiefly mental I'm afraid. Beastly wet. Vaughan goes away. Get pen back from Cox.
13th. January.
Still pretty dicky. Bde Comdr very pinicikty. Divnl Comdr to impact partially trained re–enforcements. Things not at all too good. Stuff in for leave. Wonder what sort of chance I've got.  A backing blaisterer from Geo. Bde comes [writing very unclear here.] along. Still feeling a bit dicky. Dent Young  joins Bde.
14th. January.
Prepare to move off. Make a bad start as regards mess. Sarpoon tries  [writing hard to read here] to do us in the eye. Get lunch at Bayeux Marters (Baker) ! See Davis also Carey (new B / M of 8th.!)  Eventually get to Bresle without any very bad mishaps. Things fairly good altogether. Don't like my new mates very much!
15th. January.
Training starts again very cold. O.C. Bre. rushes round. Go round in the morning also in the afternoon  & show them rifle ranges. Send cheque £ 2-12/- Chas B.and Cox £200 5% War loan 1927 - 1947.
16th. January.
Nothing special doing. Wander round with [words here difficult to read] tour major and Garde Champ art re. bombing grounds. Walk over to Bayeux after lunch & have pow-wow re. training. Hear all sorts of furfees. Pass Bde. to Beckett. Letter written to send £60 to Craig & co.
17th. January.
Nothing specially desperate. Snow fairly thick. King of Greece comes around. I put forward my claims as an officer of the Imperial bodyguard!  Prepare a desperate effusion in order to "create" ..?..  [this word is impossible to make out] Hope that my leave won't be interfered with. Send cheque to Metcalfe & Hughes d.  £- 19 / 1/ 1d. £ -/19 /6d
18th. January.
Very grim & snowy day. Am feeling quite fed up with life. Divisional Comdr comes along in the morning. Chapman down with fever. Am feeling pretty dicky both bodily & mentally. My leave sounds a bit in the wind still.
19th. January.
Divnl. Comdr. comes around in morning. We prowl round  & see Bde. doing stereotyped attack! Things not too extremely grim. Lunch with 9th. Bde. A & Q 9 comes in the afternoon. My leave is approved. Hope I may be able to get away all right. Stuff in my furious application. Clarke well due but not yet back.
20th. January.
Nothing desperate doing. Go up to 9th. & judge teams & hacks. Lunch at 9th. Go up again in afternoon and judge drill squads. Get hair cut. -- - much disturbed Clarke comes back but with the news that Duqulier will not come back until 22nd. My leave looks a bit sad altogether! Go to 9th. to dine.
21st. January.
Nothing special doing. Feeling very full of headache. Birdie (Birdwood) comes & presents ribbons. Find I can't do any combat - am getting quite excited about leave. Hope it won't fall through.
From a contemporary Austrailian Diary:- January 21st 1917. We were today inspected by General Smythe. He is temporally in command of our Division and is a V.C. , real great chap. and written of the following days ... January 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th 1917. It is still freezing, 40 degrees below zero.
22nd. January.
Nothing desperate until 12.15   9th. Brd . operation. Miss after lunch training activity conference. ? Bridgs. doesn’t turn up. Feeling very fed up about things in general. Don't know quite what’s going to happen. Brigadier Wills up. I keep him & Henworth going until late with operations. Decide colude off ? difficulty in car. P plus 3.
23rd. January.
Push off in an Ambu{lance} with Hilmer Smith. Dejeuner (breakfast) at Amiens. Leave at 11.45 & on arrival at Boulogne about 15.30 am told no more berths. Go & stay at Paris Hotel. Before dinner a slight adrenaline (?rush) with a VAD. Turn in early.
His Leave in England
24th. January.
Leave Boulogne after various adventures about 10.00. See Challenor & Gloves ? Raine. Lunch on train. Arrive London about 15.00 . Go to 13A then to Brig. Peel. Meet one from Highcliffe & then to Genoa. No room at club; take one at Cattin - quite comfortable. Turn in at 23.00. Cost  re transferring ........ to new war loan. Beckett .....

From a contemporary Austrailian Diary:- 24 [January 1917] Gen' parade on field of snow & Bde. inspected by GEN. SMYTHE. - written on the same day.)

25th. January.
Get up late and breakfast about 11.00. Lunch with Val [his sister] Then to Cox & W.O. go to Faulkner also to various other places. Have tea at Fuller's with one very amusing filly. Arrange for dinner at club. The Highcliffe fails. Go back to Brig. Peel meet me; also dinner at Ship & Squeals! Wander afterwards & find the garage one & we go to Oxford. Not very elevating at all.
26th. January.
Get up very late go to stores etc. Lunch with self at Club. Go & do a conference then prowl to Elysée. Find one very   ? person at -- TWC -- awful suggestions. Meet the garage one again. Dine and go to Oxford to stay. Very indiff. *
27th. January.
Get up very late. Lunch with Liddle at 14 Ash. Gdns. Very pleas. Meet Radford at club. Leave King's X. at 17.00 without further adventure, arrive Huntn [Huntington?] & come along in one of Yarnold's cars.
28th. January.
Get up earlish & fill in until lunch. Afterwards walk up to pond in park. Do not skate, surprisingly cold. Write letters etc.
29th. January.
Breakfast in bed & loaf before lunch. Try to skate in meadow afterwards. Dorothy & Theodora [his nieces] do a little play. Very pleasant. Feeling very sleepy.
30th. January.
Breakfast in bed. Lyonesse [his sister & mother of Theodora]   takes me to the stat[ion] Leave Huntington at 1.22. See good samples of the ......... feeling very cold. Arrive York at 5.39pm. See Cope who comes & dines. - Denys [his son.] very fit. Turn in late.
(Though appearing as almost an afterthought, this was the last time he saw Denys who - at the age of seventy - still remembered clearly his father coming into the bathroom where his Nanny was bathing him and remembered his father kneeling down to give him a “Golly” doll, made of brown velvet with scarlet dungarees. My father gave me this same doll when I was seven years old.)
31st. January.
Breakfast in bed. Go into bank {Beckett} Transfer to new loan. Cash cheque £7. Go to lunch at Skelton - very pleas - much admire Sta Arcancs. Leave York 3.12 Unpleasant mates in train. Yanler. Kit right to Club. Go to Reg(ents) Pal(ace) see Garage Filly. Find the "Mitford ". Dine at the Ship. Wander around & so to bed.
1st. February.
Get up early. Go to stores etc. Order boots at Faulkner’s. Things a bit grim - snow etc. Lunch at Morgan’s. Meet Crockett. Smith's to tea. Go to Reg Pal & meet the Howards. Dine at Ship. Very pleas. Bed latish.
2nd. February.
Get up late. Go to shops etc. before lunch. Lunch with Val & Mabel [his sisters] Cox & Co after lunch. Am a bit wandering. Go to the baths, not pleas., afterwards go meet Howard, dine at Ship, rather a catast, - feeling sad monkey, write lots of letters.
3rd. February .
Get up late. Have breakfast with Col. H Smith. Go to stores see Genl Walker. Go to Folk. [Folkstone] Val [his sister] sees us off. See Wilson & Hutcherson. Stay at Longford Hotel. Petty comic. Quite amusing especially after most people have pushed off to bed 1. 1/2 *

His return to France

4th. February.
Leave Folk. about 9.30 am. Boulogne 11.30. Lunch at Maurice. Quite an affaire with a "trop jeune fillette”! After much scrambling leave by rail & arrive Amiens at 18.30. Stay at Rhin Hôtel. Really quite amusing account of local bombing.
5th. February.
Get up early for car. Go to Y.M.C.A. Go to ?bariel in rickety car + leave at about 13.00 - arrive Albert 15.00 & get found by 9th.. Go to D.A.W.A.S. to get car. Feeling very cold, sad  - quite ready to get another go of leave! 9th. Br very ?chicry -- Get left in car from D.A.W.A.S.;  extremely cold. Arrive Bde. Hdqus. to find nothing arranged for me at all. Turn in cold & nervous.
Image courtesy of Susan F. Tollemache6th. February.
Get up latish. Miserably cold. Am fed up but ought to be fit. Go & see 10th. & 11th. Geil [difficult to read this name] goes up to 1st. Bde. Hear from Mac Lay also W. Bond. Write to both. Am very fed (up) with life in general. No news of my move anywhere. Don't feel extremely useful. Postcards to Mamma .---------. Lyonesse, Val, Mabel, [his sisters]
7th. February.
Go up to first Bde. in morning with Vaughan. Quite a good place & things really interesting. Do a certain amount of work in the afternoon, but find that things are not too easy. Hear of labels dished out promiscuously. Feel a bit dicky tho not extremely depressed. Write to Genl. Mac & W . Bond.
8th. February.
Do a fair amount of work in morning. Go round to 12th. Bde. Brig. goes down to DWil. Beastly cold & uncomfortable. Henwood very sick monkey & in bed. Turn in fairly late. Send pass bk back to Cox Cr £37 - 10 - 0 after deducting cheques drawn & £50 War Loan bought.
9th. February.
Busy writing etc. in morning. Feeling extremely torpid. Henwood gets off his bed of sickness. Clarke & I go up to 1st. Bde Hdqs - have tea and afterwards go round line. Not too comfortable -- however survive. Have an excellent supper afterwards.
10th. February.
Feeling pretty sad monkey. Get another letter re. my returning to BEF. Evidently they intend to block me all they know. Nothing special doing. Arrange for relief of Milligan etc. Catch a beastly cold. Am not feeling extremely vigorous. Hear great reports re. Naval battle.
11th. February.
Go up to 10th. & 11th. Genl goes down to town. I stay in most of the day. News of Andrew pushing off to England -- arrange substitute. Things not too pleasant. Am feeling extremely torpid tho not really ill. More news re. Naval slant. 10th. & 12th. push off into line.
12th. February.
Start & pack up ready to move. Beastly cold & uncomfortable. Lunch early. Get up to our new home (Cough Drop) at about 16.30. No kit & no food until about 8pm. Relief all OK. I develop a beastly cold. Things pretty well all right. (One contemporary Australian account mentions a position called "Acid Drop".)
13th. February.
Get up latish.  Very busy over correspondence etc. Trying to get things more or less squared up. Andrew is to move off on 14th. Wish I was to be on the move as well. However I suppose I will have to (??) "dree my weird here! ". Write to Val & Lyonesse (his sisters)
14th. February.
Do nothing except quill drive in the morning. Henwood doing S Capt. Baker Finch comes up to act as understudy. Things not specially exciting. Fearful fit of depression has got me absolutely fired. Go out with Vaughan after lunch to 3rd Bde. Hdqs. Things not extremely pleasant. Nearly stop one. Just lurch; don’t walk straight into it. Lots of codes etc.
This was his last entry. He died from influenza on 20th February 1917. He is buried in Plot 6, Row 4, Dernancourt Cemetery Extension. Dernancourt Village is 3 kilometers South of Albert. The Communal Cemetery is west of the village and the Extension is north west of the Communal Cemetery.

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Added in May 2004 - The unusual photograph below has been kindly supplied by Susan who believes that Leone is in this group somewhere - possibly standing - in full uniform - at the back of the group, with his arms folded. The image shows cadets at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1902, while digging [practice] trenches. The original 1902 photograph was taken by J. David - 35 rue Rivay - Levallois, Paris (known in 1881 to have worked from 90 rue de Courcelles in Levallois) and bears the catalogue number of 193253. It is now severely foxed and has been computer enhanced for this page. Susan comments: " ... they don't look harassed or over worked!" Indeed, just some twelve years later, trenches were having to be dug in earnest and the enormous blood-cost of trench warfare was to change such light-hearted scenes as this for ever.

Susan concludes: "We are descended from the Tollemaches of Ham House, near Kew (Richmond) in London and the Earldom of Dysart, (Scotland) which was created by King Charles Ist. Leone’s father - the Reverend Ralph Tollemache - was previously married to his cousin, Caroline Tollemache, by whom he had six children. Caroline probably died in childbirth. Ralph remarried in 1859 and it is from this family we are descended. The Leicestershire Regiment

Leone was born in June 1884 the sixth son and eighth child of his father’s second marriage. He rarely used his full name, preferring to use 'Leone Sextus Tollemache'. He entered the Military College at Sandhurst in 1902 and was commissioned into the Leicestershire Regiment in 1903 at the rank of Second Lieutenant. At the time of his death in February 1917 he was a Captain but was an acting Brigade Major in the Australian 3rd Infantry Brigade to which he had been seconded.Denys Herbert George Tollemache - (1976) - son of Leone Sextus, father of Susan and Peter Tollemache

He served in India - the regimental emblem is the tiger - Fermoy in Ireland and in France. He may also have been in North Africa though I’m not sure of this. If he was, it was while he was on secondment to another regiment.  It was while he was in Fermoy that he announced his engagement to my paternal grandmother, Kathleen Mary Mills, the daughter of Joseph Mills and Charlotte née Bloomfield. Charlotte was born in Waterford at New Hall. She was descended from the Bloomfields of Castle Caldwell. Admiral Bloomfield came over with William of Orange.

They were married in Acomb, York on 23rd April 1914 and spent their honeymoon in Fermoy. As I understand it, but for the war, Leone and Kathleen had intended to farm near Fermoy. My father, Denys Herbert George Tollemache, (pictured adjacent) was born 12th January 1915 at White House, Acomb, York. His mother, Kathleen, died as a result of the birth. Denys was raised by his grandmother, Charlotte (Bloomfield) Mills and after her death by his paternal aunt, Lyonesse (Tollemache) and her husband, Frank Astley Cooper."Susan Tollemache's information, 8/2003

For autobiographical details of Denys Tollemache, click on the image adjacent. These are notes written by Denys himself in about 1987, in response to a set of specific questions. (Page added February 2004)

The two photographs of Denys H. G. Tollemache (1915-1991) that appear on this page were kindly donated by his daughter, Susan. She has also provided further material - together with some explanations concerning this family line - with a photograph of her great grandfather, the the Reverend Ralph Tollemache, grouped with some members of his second family, including a young Leone. Use the gold button to follow the link or use the image link at the head of this page to retrace to the source of this page.

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Site Note

There is some uncertainty about Leone Tollemache's service in North Africa but, in trying to trace this service, Susan demonstrates the following: This letter shows a request for 'Captain Tollemache' to come to Tel-el-Kebir from Zeitoun where he is billeted at the Grand Hotel. Zeitoun was considered part of Cairo command (Egypt) and so he may have already been attached to the AIF in Cairo in some capacity - but still with the rank of Captain.

A modern-day letter from Colonel F.A.H. Swallow O.B.E., writing to Susan on behalf of the Leicestershire Regiment, states that Leone was in the 2nd. Battalion of the Regiment in 1905 and that he "probably moved with them to India in 1906". They served in Belgaum, Poona and Bombay. Apparently, he left Belgaum in 1911 to become Adjutant of the 3rd. Battalion at the Depot, Glen Parva Barracks, South Wigston in Leicestershire - which post he took up on 27th March 1911.

He was with the 1st. Battalion when it moved to Fermoy on 27th November, 1912 - leaving from Aldershot. A Regimental note states that he was posted to the 1st Battalion "on absorbtion" - presumably meaning that the 3rd. Battalion was 'absorbed' into the 1st. and 2nd. Battalions by way of rationalisation between 1911 and late 1912. He is then recorded as being with the 1st. Battalion for the first part of the war. This Battalion remained in France for the duration of the war whilst the 2nd. Battalion was in India, Mesopotamia and Palastine.

To find himself in Zeitoun, perhaps he had re-joined the 2nd. Battalion - going to the Middle East where he then became associated with the Australian forces and so received the "invitation" to serve under General Smythe at Tel-el-Kebir. Either that, or he had been seconded to the AIF previously in France and gone to Egypt to take part in the training of Australian troops prior to the evidence of his "call" to the 4th Australian Brigade. He had already undertaken specialist training for Mounted Infantry. At this time (year unstated) he was with the 2nd. Battalion of the Leicester Regiment. Since he is mentioned in this Battalion note as holding the rank of Lieutenant, it may be presumed that this training took place prior to 1914 (when he married) because, from other records, it is known that he was a Captain by the time his engagement was announced. Additionally - and another possibility - Leone may have been wounded in France and then posted as a reinforcement to another battalion/regiment. As Colonel Swallow points out, "Postings to other regiments occurred a great deal during the war."

It is possible, therefore, that Leone accepted this transfer at Zeitoun - and the promotion opportunity - in mid-February 1916 (14th.?) and that he arrived in France with the Australian Brigades from Egypt. Colonel Smythe also must have returned to France at that time - he is named in contemporary Australian accounts (see diary extract above) as inspecting the Australian troops there on the same date that Leone was just setting off on Leave for the last time.

Another contemporary account - of one Australian (English born) soldier's journey - reads: "On the 3rd of August, 1915, four months after the landing at Gallipoli, Thomas Wilson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Burrrum. On the 23rd of December, 1915, he embarked on the "Suevic" in Sydney. He sailed to the south of Australia, across the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal to Alexandria in Egypt.

On the 16th of February, 1916, Thomas was allotted to join the 55th Battalion at Zeitoun. Then three days later he was taken to Tel el Kebir, which is also in Egypt. He would have seen the sights of the pyramids when he was training in the desert for 4 months. On the 19th of June, 1916, he embarked the "Caledonian" at Alexandria and sailed to Marseilles in France. On the 29th July, 1916, he disembarked at Marseilles. From here he would have travelled by train to the north of France to the battlefields on the River Somme." Thomas Wilson would have arrived in Tel-el-Kebir at much the same time as 'Brigade Major' Leone Tollemache if the latter accepted this invitation to serve with the 4th Australian Brigade under Smythe (whose family name is usually found without the final letter 'e'.)

Further evidence of the connection between Zeitoun, Leone and the 4th Australian Brigade comes from various pieces of contemporary ephemera that may be seen for sale on the Internet - two clear examples being: "1916 WWI AIF stampless "Greetings from a Soldier in Egypt" letter-card, good cds "4th Aust Inf Bgde/Field PO" 14-111(March) -16 & triangular censor no. 3014. From Serapeum, Egypt. Proud p112 Type D1 or D2. To Australia. Scarce." and "1916 WWI AIF stampless PPC ex Zeitoun, Egypt (but Ceylon scene), cds "Australian Base Details P.O." 14-111-16, purple cachets "Passed by Censor/A.I.F. Misc. Reinf) & " Zeitoun". Fine."Family background to this Smyth family ...

On balance, it may be assumed that Leone Tollemache arrived in France from Egypt with the ANZAC contingents in July 1916 and served there for the six months prior to the commencement of the diary transcribed above. However, there is a strong possibility that he was with the 4th Brigade when he died rather than the 3rd. (Information here) The 4th Brigade's Campaigns are as follows: Egypt, Sinai: Defence of Suez Canal, Gallipoli: Landing at Anzac, Defence of Anzac, Sari Bair, Scimitar Hill, Withdrawal from Anzac, Western Front: Pozieres, Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, Bullecourt, Messines, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Amiens, Albert, Hindenburg Line. The 3rd. Brigade's Campaigns are listed as follows: Egypt, Sinai: Defence of Suez Canal, Gallipoli: Landing at Anzac, Defence of Anzac, Sari Bair, Withdrawal from Anzac, Western Front: Pozieres, Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, Bullecourt, Menin Road, Broodeseinde, Hazebrouck, Amiens, Hindenburg Line. Albert is not mentioned in the lists for the 3rd. Infantry Brigade.

Major-General Nevil Maskelyne Smyth V.C. (1868-1941) was nicknamed 'The Sphinx' and commanded the 1st Australian Brigade on Gallipoli, then the 2nd Australian Division on the Western Front. His courage at Lone Pine (1915) won the admiration of the Australian troops - a respect that he never lost. R. I. Dacre R.A.M.C. - memoirs (new window)Much involved in the the training of Australian troops in Egypt, he was described as ‘sphinx-like, silent and imperturbable’. He was (Scout Movement) Baden-Powell's first cousin - the son of Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth and grandson of Admiral W. H. Smyth. He was awarded the Victoria Cross while serving with the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays) at Khartoum in 1898. He settled in Australia in 1925. Click on his image for ancestry details.

For some background details about the winter of 1916/17 see also the account of the "Great Thaw" by Richard Irving Dacre available on this site. Click on the adjacent image. His series of memoirs (with photographs) provides an interesting insight into the life of an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps beginning with news of the declaration of war.

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